How to have sweet-smelling breath
Bad breath affects most people at some stage of their life, but there are simple measures to prevent it recurring. Michele Simmons and Dr Chris Brown investigate
Halitosis, to give bad breath its medical name, affects almost all us, with research suggesting that 98 per cent of us suffer from it at some time in our lives. But the good news is that however much you hate the thought of having bad breath, it's a temporary condition and you can reverse it.
Every breath you take
Although an initial attack may be down to something you've eaten, the actual long-term cause tends to be poor dental hygiene.
The first thing to establish is whether the problem is temporary or not. Major culprits of temporary bad breath are onions,, spicy foods, alcohol and cigarettes. Smoking is especially on the list of 'breath baddies' as not only does it aggravate the stomach, which can result in acids being produced that cause bad breath, but it also reduces the flow of saliva - which means the smell lingers longer. Any situation that leads to reduced saliva flow is prone to cause bad breath. Our modern environment with air-conditioned cars, workplaces and public buildings makes us prone to dehydration due to increased evaporation. This leads to reduced saliva flow and more concentrated saliva, so it?s important to increase fluid intake to compensate for the dehydration. Certain drugs, e.g tricyclic anti-depressants, reduce saliva flow and make bad breath more likely.
Occasionally the problem can also be caused by throat or sinus infections, catarrh or even just a bad cold. In fact, any condition that makes you breathe through your mouth, rather than your nose, even if it's only for a short period, may cause bad breath because there's more chance that the salivary secretions, which act as a rinsing agent, dry up. This is exactly what happens at night: because we don't eat for around eight hours, the saliva slows down and leaves us with a dry mouth. The result is the dreaded 'morning breath'!
Other factors that can influence just how sweet our breath smells are our hormones - the increase in oestrogen during menstruation affects mouth odour - as well as hay fever and snoring. For quick fixes for temporary breath problems, see 'Say Goodbye to Bad Breath', on the next page.
Although one in four people suffer from bad breath, the British Dental Health Foundation estimate that in the majority of cases this is down to poor dental hygiene which often results in gum disease. The reason is that if we don't manage to clean our teeth probably, plaque - a bacterial film - builds up around the teeth and gums and if not removed regularly, it can cause decay, and due to stagnation, causes bad breath. If this is the case, your dentist can treat the problem, either by scaling your teeth or by suggesting mouthwashes. If bad breath is found to be due to acute infection in the mouth, your dentist may then prescribe antibiotics.